A belligerent voice from over 4,000 kilometres away spewing bile and hate is identified as Siddhartha Dhar, otherwise referred to as ‘Abu Rumaysah’, the new man who some suspect is behind the mask fronting threats to the UK from inside Syria. Dhar, a well-known and high profile figure among radicals in the UK appears to have replaced the erstwhile terrorist Mohammed Emwazi, dubbed ‘Jihadi John’. The tabloids have not unnaturally gone into overdrive dubbing Dhar ‘Jihadi Sid’ and rightly, in my view, drawing attention to the threat Dhar poses to the UK and highlighting the plight of his hapless and innocent victims inside Daesh controlled territory in Syria/Iraq.
There is no doubt that by his own admission, Dhar transitioned from a bouncy castle salesmen to a cold-blooded and ruthless murderer. Of, course there are the obvious victims who much has been written about. But Dhar has other, perhaps lesser known prey. It is often said that betrayal is hardest when the traitor is a loved one – and there is no doubt Dhar has betrayed and damaged a great number of people close to him.
Firstly he has betrayed his country – the country that accepted him and provided him and others with ample opportunity to achieve their potential and contribute to their local community. Then he has betrayed his chosen faith – Islam. His family were far more shocked by him adopting and converting to an extremist interpretation of Islam, as opposed to his actual preliminary conversion to Islam. As a young woman brought up in a Muslim environment, I and countless others are deeply offended and resent what this death cult is doing in the name of the faith. ‘Outsiders’ coming into the faith as converts and committing atrocities (unfairly) arouse greater suspicion and despondency. Perhaps the most tragic silent victims of Dhar’s terrorism are his family. One can only conjecture what his Hindu family and community made of his conversion. Whilst he was within his rights to do so, undoubtedly his conversion must have caused pain, sorrow not to mention a sense of betrayal as he left his ancestral faith. It is one thing converting to a different faith, quite another to adopt the most radical and extreme version of that religion before embarking on the business of violent jihadism. Whilst there are extremists bred within families of fellow extremists, this is not always the case. There are many people living perfectly every-day lives serenely oblivious to their children being radicalised by manipulative and cruel individuals via either the net or so called ‘Islamic circles’. When my cousin Maajid Nawaz joined the extremist organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir, I know the anguish, pain and anxiety it caused our family including Maajid’s parents and indeed my own. Inevitably parents question themselves whether there was a fault in their upbringing of children; you question whether you could have done something differently, blaming yourself for your child’s behaviour. Then finally there is the stigma, embarrassment and often ostracising by the community and other family members.
Back to Dhar’s family. I wonder whether he has stopped for a moment to consider the impact of his criminality has had on his mother and the rest of his family. For her, he is dead but still living. She cannot grieve a death that has not yet occurred – he is her son, yet she sees apparently the whole nation baying for his blood. This is the true tragedy for these hidden victims of terrorists – the perpetrators are the victims’ loved ones.